Did you know that clownfish can and do reproduce in the aquarium? Clownfish breeding is possible with a little time and dedication. Breeding fish is a fun project for the more experienced aquarist, and it’s very satisfying to successfully raise the fry!
Keep reading for everything you need to know about raising clownfish fry.
Note: This is Part 2 of our installment on clownfish breeding. This article assumes you’ve read the previous article on clownfish eggs, which discusses pairing, spawning and the set-up of the breeding tank. Here, we’ll go into what to do after the eggs hatch.
Clownfish breeding | What do baby clownfish eat?
Before we can start talking about hatching and raising clownfish, we need to take a step backwards. One of the more challenging aspects of clownfish breeding is having food on hand for the larvae, which are very tiny and also pretty picky about what they eat.
When the larvae hatch, they’ll usually have enough food stored to get through the first 24 hours or so. You should have food ready, though. Live food, specifically: hobbyists and professionals agree that rotifers are the best option.
If you’re serious about breeding clownfish, you’ll have to have a rotifer culture running.
Clownfish breeding | Hatch day
Clownfish eggs hatch in around 5-10 days depending on the species. While the eggs are developing, you’ve got some time to set up a hatching tank.
- Your hatch tank doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A 10-gallon with an air stone, heater, thermometer and adjustable lighting is great.
- Three sides should be blacked out using something like black sticky foil.
- Most aquarists fill the hatching tank with a mixture of freshly made saltwater and some water from the breeding tank. Try only filling it about halfway.
- Make sure one side of the tank is nicely lit (though not too bright), while also leaving a dark side for the larvae to retreat to if they feel the need. They are very, very sensitive to light.
You can move the eggs before they hatch. This is easy if you used a breeding tank and the eggs were laid on a terracotta pot or other small piece of décor. If they can’t be moved you’ll have to wait until they hatch; act fast though, or the parents might end up eating their young!
On hatch night, make sure the tank is entirely blacked out and the air stone is running bubbles close to the eggs. Within a few hours, the larvae will start to pop out. Now, you need to be very careful not to introduce too much light at once, because these delicate creatures can actually die from fright!
Check the terracotta pot or wherever the eggs were; if there are ones that still look viable you can leave them a bit more. If leftover eggs appear white and dead, remove them now.
Clownfish breeding | Feeding & caring for fry
Once the larvae have hatched, make sure to start feeding within 24 hours. You do this by introducing rotifers as well as rotifer feed (liquid algae) into the tank. The latter is called ‘tinting’ the water. Make sure there’s always plenty of rotifers present, though not so many that the fry are overcrowded.
While the fry are hopefully gorging themselves and growing happily, a lot of waste is created. Since you’re not running a filter, you’ll have to work hard to keep the hatching tank clean.
- Because you only filled the hatching tank about halfway, you can start off by dripping clean water in there around the second or third day.
- A few days after that, you can start vacuuming out the debris that will have been beginning to build up on the bottom. Obviously, you should be using very fine hosing or a special fry tank vacuum!
- If you do suck up any fry, they can usually be returned to the tank and will survive.
- Slowly build up your water changes, keeping a very close eye on ammonia levels.
As for food, make sure there are rotifers present for around the first 10 days. However, you should also begin introducing special super-fine fry foods around day 3, slowly building up to crushed flakes and pellets after metamorphosis.
Did you know? At around day 10 of their lives, clownfish larvae metamorphose into actual fish. It’s a very delicate point, so no worries if yours don’t make it the first time. Your clownfish pair should soon spawn again. Make sure to keep the tank very nice and clean around this time.
It’s quite fascinating to see the fry suddenly looking like actual tiny clownfish!
Clownfish breeding | The grow-out tank
Once your clownfish fry have gone through metamorphosis, it’s time to start thinking about your grow-out set-up. The hatching tank won’t be enough to sustain a bunch of baby clownfish!
Around the 20th day of their lives, move the fry to an actual proper set-up. It should have a seasoned filter (possibly a sump with live rock), protein skimmer, the works. Decoration can range from quite bare to a full reef, whatever you prefer.
Congratulations! Your baby clowns are now generally out of the danger zone, as long as you keep the grow-out tank nice and clean. You’ve successfully raised your own clownfish fry.
Clownfish breeding and raising your own clownfish fry can be a fascinating experience and something that gives a deeper appreciation for the workings of marine creatures. It’s also a lot of work and definitely not always worth the effort.
If you’d like to keep things a bit simpler than this, we can help. FantaSEA Aquariums can design, set up and maintain your clownfish aquarium for you so all you have to do is enjoy it! Just contact us here with your ideas.